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Livy: The Early History of Rome, Books I-V (Penguin Classics) (Bks. 1-5) Paperback – June 25, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (June 25, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140448098
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140448092
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Latin

About the Author

Aubrey de Sélincourt, scholar and translator, translated Livy’s The Early History of Rome (Books I—V) and The War with Hannibal (Books XXI—XXX), The Histories of Herodotus and The Campaigns of Alexander by Arrian, all for the Penguin Classics. He was born in 1896 and educated at Rugby, and University College, Oxford. A schoolmaster of genius for twenty-six years, he retired in 1947 to the Isle of Wight, where he lived until his death in 1962.

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Customer Reviews

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The translation is captivating and very accessible.
AJR
In their early stages, you can't help but root for these scrappy guys and their big dreams.
jafrank
And, by the way, I think that is a serious question.
greg taylor

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Jacques Talbot VINE VOICE on February 14, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Titus Livius, better known as Livy, lived and wrote his famous history about 2,000 years ago, and even then the early history of Rome was ancient history. But the Romans were a people much taken with themselves and their perception of their destiny, and they were a highly literate people as well, so Livy was not without resources on which he could draw for research. Thanks to him and a handful of other Roman historians, we have a fairly detailed knowledge of this remote period, a knowledge that is constantly being expanded and refined through archaeology.
Livy's history, which scholars believe was intended as a series of 120 or so volumes (of which 35 have come down to us), stands as a remarkable achievement, both literary and historical. The first five volumes, translated in the present book, cover the period from the founding of the city (traditionally dated to 753 BCE) by Romulus to the defeat of the Gauls by Marcus Furius Camillus in c. 396 BCE. It is a fascinating time in Roman history, witnessing the age of the kings, their ouster by Junius Brutus and the subsequent establishment of the Republic, ongoing class struggle between the aristocratic "Patricians" and their fellow citizens, the "Plebeians," and naturally, almost unending warfare between Rome, the new kid on the block, and its neighbors.
At times the narrative can seem repetitive, what with the endless skirmishing against the Volscians, Hernici, and Latins, but Livy himself is aware of this and even makes a joke or two about it. Actually, Livy does an admirable job of holding his readers' interest in spite of the repetitive nature of his material.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By AntiochAndy on December 8, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Livy was a contemporary of Augustus, Rome's first emperor. Augustus brought peace to Rome and the empire after a lengthy period of civil strife. Though Augustus brought peace by taking power from the corrupt senate and concentrating it in his own hands, it was fashionable among the senatorial class to idealize the old days when they had exercised power. In this vein, Livy wrote his monumental History of Rome with the idea of using what he saw as the old civic virtues of Rome's past as an example to inspire his decadent contemporaries. In this sense, Livy was as much a moralist as he was a historian. But, moralist or historian, he wrote very good books. His stories were probably based on tradition as much as earlier writers. And, when his sources conflicted, he simply chose one account over another. Nevertheless, his work is one of the best surviving sources for the periods he covers, and he relates events in an amusing, instructive, and dramatic manner.
Not all of Livy's work has survived. What we have has been divided by this publisher into three parts. This book is the first of the three and covers the period from the founding of Rome to the time of Camillus. Included in this period are many entertaining stories: the flight of Aeneas from Troy to Italy, the founding of Rome by Romulus, the expulsion of the last king, Tarquin, from the city, Horatius defending the bridge over the Tiber, the victory of Cincinnatus, and many others.
Though Livy is perhaps not the most rigorous historian, his work makes for fascinating and informative reading. Some of what he relates is clearly mythical in nature, but he was writing for a popular audience and his goal was to entertain as well as inform. After two thousand years, his work still does exactly that. Read this book. I liked it very much, and I think you will, too.
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44 of 51 people found the following review helpful By cross5104@reed.edu on June 1, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Robert Graves describes Livy as an idealist, holding up early, Republican Rome as a goal to which his Augustan counterparts should aspire, and I tend to agree with him. While the stories that Livy relates about Roman virtue, bravery, and honor are somewhat interesting and even, at times, inspiring, they in no way compare to the intrigue of Rome in its later times. However, this book is by far the best aid for understanding the early political framework that later gave way to the Julio-Claudian empire. Definitely worth reading.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Rodney J. Szasz on April 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
Livy is not one of the better stylists out there. Plutarch, Suetonius, and even Ceasar stand out beside Livy, but none comes close to the breadth of description of the rise of perhaps the greatest civilisation known to mankind. One that serves as a source of awe, wonder and inspiration to much of mankind.

What Livy is describing is really how democracy and republics form. We have been raised on the romance of the Greek Polis and its percieved benefits, but the Romans in my estimation started elemental politics in a way that we know it today. They were the first to evolve largely from a Kingship to a republic in gradual largely non-violent internal changes. They stand in marked comparison to what are often call "less civilised" races and groups of peeople, precisely because they did not evolve institutions such as the Romans.

This process is described in intimate detail by Livy. The cut and thrust of political debate, the jockeying for position in the Senate, the addition, revision and abolishing of political institutions as a society evolves -- all are described in fairly sharp detail, but lacking the wit of Seutonius or the opinions of Plutarch.

All of the above takes place against the warring between the early Roman states and their neighbours (learn that the "Rape of the Sabine Women" was not really a "rape" in the traditional sense of the term -- it was far worse: the Romans lured the Sabines for a night of partying then surrounded them in the city walls, expelled all the men and took all their womenfold for themselves!!! This was a novel idea to end a paucity of brides inside early Rome).
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